When a bunch of people get together, everything changes. Different rules apply.
I've posted about navigating office politics. Now what is all this talk about company culture?
Does it mean anything? And how can you create culture change?
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
A good culture = success
For those who think "culture change" is just some buzzword, research shows culture actually affects profits. A lot.
As much as half of operating profit can be attributed to a company's culture:
What's employee trust worth to a company? Potentially, an increase of 2.5 percent in annual revenue.
From Tony Simons, Cornell University professor and author of The Integrity Dividend: Leading by the Power of Your Word:
How do you define "culture"?
Harvard Business School's Clayton Christensen has a pretty good definition.
Largely, it's a matter of rewards and punishments — both formal and informal.
Is "pretty good performance" rewarded because we value efficiency or is it punished because we maintain a very high bar?
Neither is objectively better, it's a matter of a company's values.
Are jerks fired — even if they're bringing in business? Or is the industry so competitive that rainmakers are exempt? Again, a case can be made for both.
Over time, employees realize that doing things one way gets rewarded and another way results in punishment.
Eventually the system is so internalized that these informal "rules" aren't questioned and become reflex.
This is good because things run smoothly. It's bad because faulty systems aren't fixed, they're accepted.
Netflix is famous for a deck that explains their culture.
It's notable in how consistent it is (Doing a good job and getting everything done? Then we don't care how much vacation you take) and how frank ("Good" employees get a generous severance package so the company can hire "great" ones.)
But most company statements are BS. What is written down doesn't matter if it isn't enforced.
So if the top salesperson gets treated like a king — no matter how abusively he treats people, congratulations, that's your culture, no matter what's on slide 47 of the PowerPoint deck.
Cultures are formed by the behavior that is rewarded in a company, not words.
Where does company culture come from? In both good and bad cultures, it's the people at the top.
What differentiates the two is setting values and then making sure they are consistently enforced over time.
John Kotter studied the relationship between culture and performance in over 200 companies. What did the good cultures have in common?
How do you create culture change? Treat company culture like you would your family culture.
Sounds corny but Clayton Christensen says that designing the culture of a company is no different that setting the rules for how your family treats each other at home.
Is this reasonable? Can this really create culture change? Actually, it's the only system that does.
John Kotter's The Heart of Change detailed a survey of 400 people across 130 companies in 4 continents showing that the secret to change within a company isn't about fancy MBA strategy — it's about changing the behavior of the individuals that work there, and you can only do that by addressing their feelings.
But let me guess: you're not the CEO of your company. How can you improve things if you're not in charge?
A good starting point is Dave Packard's 11 simple rules. That's David Packard of Hewlett-Packard.
These are things anyone can do to make their workplace better:
1. Think first of the other fellow. This is THE foundation — the first requisite — for getting along with others. And it is the one truly difficult accomplishment you must make. Gaining this, the rest will be "a breeze."
2. Build up the other person's sense of importance. When we make the other person seem less important, we frustrate one of his deepest urges. Allow him to feel equality or superiority, and we can easily get along with him.
3. Respect the other man's personality rights. Respect as something sacred the other fellow's right to be different from you. No two personalities are ever molded by precisely the same forces.
4. Give sincere appreciation. If we think someone has done a thing well, we should never hesitate to let him know it. WARNING: This does not mean promiscuous use of obvious flattery. Flattery with most intelligent people gets exactly the reaction it deserves — contempt for the egotistical "phony" who stoops to it.
5. Eliminate the negative. Criticism seldom does what its user intends, for it invariably causes resentment. The tiniest bit of disapproval can sometimes cause a resentment which will rankle — to your disadvantage — for years.
6. Avoid openly trying to reform people. Every man knows he is imperfect, but he doesn't want someone else trying to correct his faults. If you want to improve a person, help him to embrace a higher working goal — a standard, an ideal — and he will do his own "making over" far more effectively than you can do it for him.
7. Try to understand the other person. How would you react to similar circumstances? When you begin to see the "whys" of him you can't help but get along better with him.
8. Check first impressions. We are especially prone to dislike some people on first sight because of some vague resemblance (of which we are usually unaware) to someone else whom we have had reason to dislike. Follow Abraham Lincoln's famous self-instruction: "I do not like that man; therefore I shall get to know him better."
9. Take care with the little details. Watch your smile, your tone of voice, how you use your eyes, the way you greet people, the use of nicknames and remembering faces, names and dates. Little things add polish to your skill in dealing with people. Constantly, deliberately think of them until they become a natural part of your personality.
10. Develop genuine interest in people. You cannot successfully apply the foregoing suggestions unless you have a sincere desire to like, respect and be helpful to others. Conversely, you cannot build genuine interest in people until you have experienced the pleasure of working with them in an atmosphere characterized by mutual liking and respect.
11. Keep it up. That's all — just keep it up!
Join 100K+ readers and get a free weekly update via email here.
More from Barking Up The Wrong Tree...
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.